LatinaLista — I had been planning to blog about something else entirely. I, like I think most readers, are tired of this constant conservative chatter to ban birthright citizenship.
Yet, when I read the column of a local writer, whom I personally know, and have always considered a “Latino at heart,” I wasn’t just disappointed by his take on the whole birthright citizenship debate — he sides with conservatives — I realized that for as much as he’s embraced speaking Spanish, visiting Mexico and enjoying traditional Mexican dishes, he’s still an outsider when it comes to knowing the real story of Latino immigrants in this country.
Time and time again, I run into people who think all Latinos have only just arrived in this country. Of course, that’s especially true for undocumented Latino immigrants. After all, they still have the accent, are Spanish dominant and prefer the company of other Spanish-speakers.
True tell-tale signs of a recent arrival, right? Hardly.
For anyone who has tried to learn another language at an older age, the notion that you would abandon the language you grew up with or not hang around people who speak the same language you are most familiar with is ludicrous and shows an ignorance of basic human behavior.
However, what’s really ignorant is thinking that the majority of undocumented women giving birth in this country only just arrived for the express purpose of giving their children U.S. citizenship.
There is a far more likelier reason and it has more to do with border security than trying to cheat the U.S. system.
In my friend’s column, he writes:
You can’t fix this problem with walls. You have to do it with a grapevine.
It was a grapevine that carried reports back to friends and family in Mexico and China and Pakistan that living illegally in the U.S. is a piece of cake. Just get here, the grapevine said, and you won’t have any trouble finding a job, enrolling in college, buying a house and on and on.
The grapevine’s message has to change.
We can’t keep making it easy to live here illegally and ever expect illegal immigration to diminish.
The problem with my friend’s analysis is assuming that staying on this side of the border was the objective in the first place.
In 1987, the US government passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act which granted amnesty to any undocumented immigrant who entered the US before 1982 and had continuously resided here since. Of the 3.7 million eligible, 2.6 million accepted it.
Since 1983, the year after the cutoff date, there has been a steady stream of immigrants arriving in this country — both legally and illegally. The ones who came legally overstayed their visas and the ones who arrived illegally, well, they were lucky to arrive at all.
But the only way for all of these immigrants to return south of the border was to illegally cross back over the border. Though critics would like people to believe that there has been no border security all these years, the truth of the matter is that there has not only been enforced border security but it has been so effective that immigrants who only wanted to come to work were forced to stay because the likelihood of making a safe return to their jobs in the U.S. was diminished by our border security campaigns. Researchers have even documented this fact.
The grapevine my friend talks about was certainly true. But who would not want their family members to be with them since they can’t get back to them?
Parents who had come to work and were prevented from crossing back over to see their families soon had their children either brought over to them or started new families on this side of the border.
While the Pew Hispanic Center released a report this week about the number of undocumented births — 340,000 out of a total of 4.3 million — every conservative, and my friend included, has denounced this saying it is not right.
Yet, is it right to expect human beings to live their lives for years without companionship or the love of a spouse or partner that results in what is the most natural consequence of such a relationship?
For those people who believe it is right to expect such a sacrifice, their ignorance is more profound than can be addressed in a blog post.
The bottom line is that while blame is being heaped upon undocumented immigrants for having children, it has to be understood that it was U.S. federal border enforcement, especially since the early 80s, that has enabled this situation to rise to current levels — and for the vast majority of immigrant women giving birth it’s not happening with those who have just arrived, but women who have formed relationships over time and want what most Latina women are raised to believe is an important part of their future — having their own family.